Local Women Create Facebook Page To Help Thousands Get COVID-19 Vaccines Local News

On Friday morning, a 69-year-old Livonia man reached out to a Facebook page called Detroit Area Vaccine Hunters for help finding a place to schedule an appointment for his COVID-19 vaccination.

Three hours later, he received more than 50 responses from kind-hearted residents across Lower Michigan and Ohio recommending various locations, vendors, and contact points. And based on the Vaccine Hunters group’s track record, the man likely made an appointment before his keyboard went cold.

This is a will for three women who responded to the appeal of Abraham Lincoln, “the better angels of our nature.”

Elizabeth Griem from Sterling Heights, Katie Monaghan from Royal Oak and Shar Clark from Holland saw a need, stepped into the void and formed a group on Facebook in mid-February. The site has since established three regions in its support network (Southeast and Central Michigan, West Michigan, and Northern Michigan) that help people across the state with volunteers, crowdsourcing, and old-fashioned elbow grease. They also launched the Vaccine Angels program, which brings together an overwhelmed elderly population with tech-savvy Good Samarian volunteers to schedule their appointments.

“I had no idea I was going to do that (December and January) but I knew I wanted to help,” said Griem. “I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing when people needed help.”

For Griem, the idea was based on her own frustrations while trying to get vaccinations for her father and father-in-law. When Michigan made 75 and more vaccines available to residents in mid-January, Greim ran into all sorts of problems getting appointments for them.

“It was a nightmare. I tried every system to win my father and father-in-law. I called everyone I knew. I knew they were eligible, but I just didn’t know where to turn” said Griem. “I called various hospital systems for two weeks and finally got appointments. I knew that if it was that difficult for me as a 33-year-old, it must be even more difficult for people who are older, or who are or are not familiar with computers. ” I have no one to help them. “

So Griem went online looking for ways to share her experience and help others with the same problems. There she met Monaghan and Clark and together they formed the Facebook page. In just over three weeks, the site had more than 3,700 followers for the group in the Detroit area, 1,800 for the group in West Michigan, and about 200 people for the Northern Michigan area.

“There was no one central place where people could see all of the vaccination options available,” Monaghan said. “We want to be that source for people.” Ultimately, our ultimate goal is to get more shots in the arms. “

Since the founding of the Facebook group, the trio has helped thousands of people across Michigan make appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They have many amazing stories, from helping a woman say goodbye to her terminally ill brother to meeting an elderly couple in time to see their granddaughter’s birth.

“We have received so many messages from people who are not familiar with computers,” Greim said. “I have a whole notebook of people who have sent private messages. There are quite a few people, but mostly 65 and older. We’ve had couples who opened a Facebook account because they heard about us.”

Every Monday evening, the site moderators meet virtually, collect their lists of those who need help, and prepare to schedule appointments the next morning. Griem said her team members will be using three different computers at the same time, multiple phones, laptops, tablets, whatever it takes to book the appointments.

“It’s amazing. We were able to get everyone to the Macomb County Health Department. We have amazing volunteers,” she said.

Many of the group’s appointments are made through Rite Aid. Griem said she worked many nights to fix appointments until 2 a.m. Rite Aid accepts appointments from 11:40 p.m. to midnight, and Griem will stick with them past the midnight period to ensure that the information she provided is correct and that it is all taken to appropriate locations. She said many Michigan residents who are frustrated with not being able to make an appointment are considering going to Ohio. But Griem said there are many locations in Michigan, you just have to be able to find them.

Griem, who is married with a two-year-old daughter, has the full support of her husband Jake to take on this time-consuming project, knowing how difficult it was to get appointments for her own family. She said her daughter Aaliyah often sat on her lap while making appointments. For them, it’s all about time management.

“It’s become almost a full-time job, but it’s worth helping,” Griem admitted. “I made people cry on the phone – it was worth it. It’s addicting and very rewarding.

“So many people were able to take care of their own appointments with our guidance. It was amazing to see these groups take off and do so much good,” she added.

Griem has not yet received her own vaccination shot because she is not authorized. When Griem was told that she shouldn’t have a problem scheduling her own appointment if she’s eligible thanks to all of her homework, she didn’t hesitate to say that her focus will stay the same as long as her Facebook group’s help is needed .

“Yes, it should be easy for me to find a place. But I’ll put everyone else in front of me,” she said. “People at serious risk of illness or death must come first.”

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